A crisis over the function and identity of the Muse occurred in seventeenth-century religious poetry: How could Christian writers use a pagan device? Using rhetorical analysis, Phillips examines epic invocations in order to show how this crisis was eventually reconciled in the works of John Milton. While predecessors such as Abraham Cowley and Guillaume du Bartas either rejected the pagan Muses outright or attempted to Christianize them, Milton invoked the inspirational power of the Muses throughout his poetic career. In Paradise Lost, Milton confronts the tension between his Muse’s «name» and «meaning». While never fully rejecting the Muse’s pagan past, Milton’s four proems (PL I, III, VII, and IX) increasingly emphasize the muse’s Christian «meaning» over her pagan «name». Ultimately, Milton’s syncretic blending of pagan and Christian conventions restores vitality and resonance to the literary trope of the muse.
About the Author
The Author: Philip Edward Phillips, Assistant Professor of English at Middle Tennessee State University, received his Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University. He is co-editor of Carmina Philosophiae: Journal of the International Boethius Society.